Obama to host Southeast Asian leaders for 2016 summit

Obama to host Southeast Asian leaders for 2016 summit
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President Obama will host a summit of Southeast Asian leaders at a posh Southern California resort early next year, the White House said Thursday. 

During an Asian tour last month, Obama invited leaders from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the Sunnylands resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif., "to continue important conversations about the Asia-Pacific region," said National Security Council spokesman Myles Caggins. 

"The president is pleased the leaders have accepted his invitation to gather at Sunnylands, in early 2016," added Caggins, who did not provide additional details about the meeting, including an exact date.

A Japanese news outlet reported the summit will take place over President's Day weekend, Feb. 15 and 16.

The gathering comes as Obama is trying accelerate the U.S.' "pivot" to Asia, a key component of his foreign policy agenda. The president is working to deepen U.S. ties in the Asia-Pacific region in order to counter China's influence there. 

Obama touted the newly finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement in November during summit meetings in Malaysia and the Philippines. The president is trying to marshal international support for the sweeping agreement while also pressing Congress to approve it next year.

Obama praised the deal during his year-end press conference as "the most pro-labor, pro-environment, progressive trade deal in history" that would open up Asian markets to U.S. beef, pork, cars and other consumer goods. 

"This is a big deal," he said. "There are both proponents and opponents of this in both Democratic and Republican parties, and so it’s going to be an interesting situation where we're going to have to stitch together the same kind of bipartisan effort in order for us to get it done."

With just a year left in office, Obama is pressing lawmakers to act urgently. If the deal is passed, it would be a major legacy achievement for the president. But congressional rejection of the deal would be a stinging rebuke that would fuel talk about Obama's lame-duck status. 

Congressional leaders have sent mixed signals about the deal. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanScalise released from hospital after planned surgery GOP sold Americans a bill of goods with tax reform law Impeaching Rosenstein? Some Republicans are talking about it MORE (R-Wis.) has praised the agreement but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Trump has not invited Democrats, media to state dinner: report MORE (R-Ky.) has raised concerns with the pact and urged Obama not to send it to Capitol Hill for a vote before next November's elections. 

Obama will have a home-court advantage with Asian leaders at Sunnylands, a 200-acre estate near Palm Springs that is one of his favorite destinations in the country. He met Chinese President Xi Jinping there in 2013 and he used it for golf getaways on President's Day weekend in 2014 and 2015.